Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Q&As Regarding the Participation of Head Start Programs in Child Nutrition Programs

EO Guidance Document #
FNS Document #
SP40 CACFP11 SFSP13-2013
Resource type
Policy Memos
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (82.83 KB)
DATE: May 17, 2013
SUBJECT: Questions and Answers Regarding the Participation of Head Start Programs in Child Nutrition Programs
TO: Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

The purpose of this memorandum is to consolidate our policy regarding the participation of Head Start Programs in the Child Nutrition Programs. For more information about the Head Start Program and Early Head Start Program, please see the Office of Head Start’s website:

This memorandum supersedes the following previously issued memoranda:

  • SP 34-2008, CACFP 10-2008, SFSP 09-2008, Automatic Eligibility for Early Head Start Participants, Aug. 5, 2008;
  • SP 23-2008, CACFP 07-2008, SFSP 06-2008, Automatic Eligibility for Free Meal Benefits Extended to All Children Enrolled in Head Start, May 16, 2008;
  • Automatic Eligibility of State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten Participants for Free Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the School Breakfast Program (SBP), July 22, 1999; and
  • Automatic Eligibility for Free Meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Special Milk Program (SMP) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for Participants in the Head Start Program, April 14, 1995.

Section 336 of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 tasked the Secretary with examining and reporting on the feasibility of reducing unnecessary or duplicative paperwork in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). In response, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) established a Paperwork Reduction Work Group. Based on recommendations from this work group, this memorandum is also intended to emphasize the categorical eligibility of the Head Start and Early Head Start participants and to reiterate the legislative intent to serve these populations nutritious meals though the child nutrition programs without undue barriers.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this information to program operators immediately. Program operators should direct any questions regarding this memorandum to the appropriate state agency. State agency contact information is available at stateDirectory.htm. State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.

Cynthia Long
Child Nutrition Division


Page updated: August 24, 2023

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.